Ind vs Aus: Happy to bat down the order for team's sake, says Kohli

Virat Kohli hinted at a possibility of going with all three opening option - Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul and Rohit Sharma - in the first ODI against Australia.

Virat Kohli (right) expressed his disinterest in comparisons between Shikhar Dhawan (left), K.L. Rahul (centre) and Rohit Sharma.   -  AP

Ahead of the first ODI against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Indian captain Virat Kohli felt that the visiting team is more confident that the previous tour. The world number one batsman in ODIs said that he has no hesitation to bat down the order to accommodate the likes of Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan if the team decides to play the trio.

Here are Kohli's thoughts on the series and Tuesday's match:

On playing Australia

They are a stronger side than the one that came to India last time. But they still won the series last time. In the series before that, they played a full strength side but we won the series. You can have the most experienced and the most skilled players in your squad but if you don’t play well as a team in that series, you won’t win. That shows you how competitive the series between these two teams are and it’s never a dominating series, the margin is always 3-2 or 2-1. Maybe five games would have been exciting. But taking on Australia, even in our conditions, they have played so much IPL, now they are pretty experienced in these conditions.

On the opening combination

All guys in form is always good for the team. You obviously want the best player available and then choose a combination that suits the team. So we will figure out what combination we will play. There might be a possibility that all three (KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma) will play. As I said after the last game, I don’t support people comparing players within the team. I see so many features and programs being made on ‘this versus this’ and ‘that versus that’. I mean we are a team and we are playing together. It doesn’t make sense when people say the ‘heat is on’ and ‘they are fighting for one spot’. I think that sends a wrong message and people should stay away from that. We are just happy that all three are playing well and we have world class players in the team.

On the relevance of the series

Look, when you are playing Australia, you don’t look at the relevance of the series. It’s about playing against the best. The way they are playing their cricket now, after Steve (Smith) and David (Warner) have come back, it’s pretty intense. They are challenging every team and they are dominating few teams as well. I think we, along with Australia, are probably the top two sides in the world, as far as the balance is concerned. Whether it’s relevant or irrelevant that’s for people to decide. Also that’s how the calendar is laid out. When you have played too many games then you can think if a series is relevant or not. But in the year of the World Cup, as many games we play, it is going to benefit us, especially white ball cricket.

Tim Paine's suggesting starting the Test series at The Gabba

We played the day-night Test here, we were pretty happy with how it went. It's become a very exciting feature of any Test series and we're open to playing day-night Tests. We're ready and up for the challenge - whether it's Gabba, Perth...it doesn't matter to us, we have the skill sets as a team now to compete against anyone in the world, anywhere, in any format of the game, Whether it's white ball, red ball or pink ball, we're ready to play anything.

Contest with Bumrah

Bumrah has been playing for the team for the last four years now and this is probably the second time I have ever got out in the net, hitting a few against him and not getting out. One was Adelaide before the Test in 2018 and one was 2018. I'm glad that was the last ball of my net session because he ran back to his mark but I got out of the nets. It's a fun sort of competition. According to me he's the most skillful bowler in the world in any format of the game. To play against him...he brings match intensity in the nets, I can assure you that. He's not shy of hitting us on the head or targeting our ribs every now and then. I challenge myself to play well against him, not every day do you get to hit boundaries off Jasprit in the nets. Today was one, so I'm very happy. You can ask him next time, I'm sure he'll have something to say about me.

Dew factor

Dew in Wankhede has always been a big factor, especially in a 50-over game. In the afternoon you literally have nothing in the pitch, it can play differently but under lights with the dew it can get very challenging for the bowlers. Again, as I said, any kind of one-day cricket now with in the year of the T20 World Cup and Test championship going on, it's an opportunity for teams to put themselves in uncomfortable positions or situations - with the ball in conditions where there's dew or in the first innings with the bat. In the T20 series as well, we wanted to put ourselves into situations which we want to improve on. So whether we bat first or second, we want to do what we've been doing well and challenge ourselves every now and then. So I think it's going to be up to the mindset of the bowler how to bowl with a wet ball against batsmen who are coming at you.

Wankhede pitch

I was just chatting with Ravi bhai and I said 'it's probably the best pitch to bat in India'. Not to take anything away from what bowlers can do here. You might have seen when bowlers get on a roll, even in T20 cricket they can pick up four wickets in the first six overs. Even in one-day cricket you can get pace and bounce and sometimes seam as well under lights. But as a batsman, when you get in, it's probably along with Adelaide - probably the best batting wicket I've played on. That's something as a batsman you always come back to and relish the opportunity to play on such a good pitch. I like the wicket because it's generally a good cricket wicket and it's true to either skill, which I like to see at the international level.  

On Mitchell Starc

Firstly, it is going to be a great challenge for them (middle-order) to face someone like Mitchell (Starc). I've played with him, played against him a lot. He is a very skillful bowler. And he changed his action now, which we saw him getting more swing, looks like he's back to swinging the ball like he used to, and that makes him a lethal bowler all-over again. When he gets to swing the ball like that the new ball and then he can tear it away with the old ball because he has got his action in a linear fashion. I don't think that not having played in India will be much of a factor for him, because he's played a lot over here. And anyone who has pace, once they find their length they can adjust anywhere, so pace is always going to be an advantage. But having said that we have played against these guys a lot. We are not saying it is not going to be a cake-walk, we'll definitely have to be up for it and especially the younger guys in the middle-order. They should look for a challenge. Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, if he plays, (Kane) Richardson is an experienced bowler, Adam Zampa all these guys will challenge us throughout the game.

On Adam Zampa

He was pretty good last time, when Australia played here. He was probably one bowler, who had more belief than others is what I felt. Throughout the game, even when he was hit for boundaries, he kept coming at the batsmen and try and get them out, which I think is important for a wrist-spinner. And his mindset was a standout for them in the last series. And he made those important breakthroughs in the games that they won after having lost two. So, we have to be at our best game against them in the middle-overs and not think too much about what he's going to do. If we have a clear mindset and a positive intent with the bat, then we will invariably put the bowlers under the pressure. But he's still skilful enough to make breakthrough also, So we have to be respectful but at the same time have belief in our game to be able to play well against them.

Are you okay to bat lower down the order, if Rahul, Rohit and Shikhar all play?

Yeah, big possibility, very happy to. I'm not insecure about where I bat. Being the captain of the team, it is my job to make sure that the next lot is also ready. So these are times when you need to be aware. It is very easy to get into a personal zone, saying 'I need to get runs and when I score, I feel good about everything'. It is not like that, it does not work like that. The vision has to be always on the larger picture and figure out how can you make these guys confident. If at all someone has to take responsibility, it should be me and give the other guys opportunities as well. I'm open to it and I want to see guys stepping up and taking responsibility. That is part and parcel of being a captain. And it is good to see players finding their game, realising their own potential. And when you are a captain that is the most satisfying thing.